You Don’t Have To Be Ruled By Emotion

 In America

Recently I was chatting with a friend who was complaining about someone in her life. “She makes me so mad. I can’t stand talking to her. I feel terrible when I get off the phone with her.” What struck me was how she genuinely believed that her feelings were caused by this person’s behavior. She didn’t realize that her feelings were actually being caused by her own thoughts about this person. We don’t realize how many thoughts go unnoticed in our brain. There’s always the thought behind the thought. Usually something like “She makes me so mad (because she doesn’t behave the way I want/expect/demand.

One of the most liberating concepts I’ve learned during my coaching journey is that it’s always our thoughts that determine our feelings—no matter what. It’s helped me drop so much unnecessary pain and inner turmoil by being willing to truly decide how I want to feel in response to circumstances. Not that it’s always easy to practice this. Just yesterday I discovered that someone I considered a friend was talking about me behind my back. Initially I was pissed off and hurt. In the past I would have spent several hours, days being upset about this. But, after a few minutes of consideration I laughed and responded “good to know.” 

Why did I have this response? I learned something valuable about this person and understood that it had nothing to do with me. Furthermore, I’ve been taught that no one–not a friend, child, sibling, or ex can cause an emotion in me without my permission. The reason we feel hurt, angry, betrayed, etc. is because we have a belief that people should act a certain way according to our standards. But guess what? They don’t always! People don’t keep their promises, our kids don’t always tell the truth, our ex doesn’t pick the kids up on time, or give them the love we think he should. 

So, what are we going to do? We can bang our heads against the wall, wring our hands and complain to anyone that will listen about how WRONG this all is. But what is the result? We are upset, maybe miserable, but the facts still remain as they are.We will always be subject to painful emotions when they are based on others actions. If we can’t change reality, then it’s worth responding in a way that serves us instead of destroys us. To do this, we have to be willing to drop the “story” of how things should be and instead adjust to how things are.

A year ago I would have been devastated to learn that my friend wasn’t the friend I thought she was. I highly value friendship and try to be the best friend possible. But, now I think “She gets to be who she is. She’s not the same kind of friend as I try to be–and that’s okay. My life does not depend on her friendship.” I will continue to treat her with courtesy and kindness, because that’s how I want show up in the world. And best of all, I get to feel good, no matter what.

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